AFI Movie Club: ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – American Film Institute
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore Film Still - Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson



Following a widow on her journey across the American Southwest in search of a better life for herself and her young son, ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE was directed by AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Martin Scorsese, and stars Ellen Burstyn – already an acting titan when she appeared in the film, which was released the same year that Burstyn enrolled in the inaugural class of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women. AFI Honorary Degree recipient Jodie Foster also appears in the film in a supporting role. 

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Watch Marcia Gay Harden announce ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE:


DID YOU KNOW? Screenwriter Robert Getchell’s script had been rejected by a number of producers, with one describing it derisively as “too much like a TV soap opera.” Then-president of Warner Bros. John Calley sent the script to Ellen Burstyn, who appreciated its women-centered narrative and bought the story with the intent to star.   

DID YOU KNOW? For ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, actress Ellen Burstyn chose her own director, and she also received final script approval. Sensitive to the under-representation of women in the film industry, Burstyn asked that qualified women be hired for prominent crew positions – including producer Audrey Maas, associate producer Sandra Weintraub, film editor Marcia Lucas, art director Toby Carr Rafelson and script supervisor Julie Pitkanen. 

DID YOU KNOW? Ellen Burstyn selected a young unknown named Martin Scorsese to direct ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE. He had recently directed MEAN STREETS and was recommended to her by Francis Ford Coppola. Burstyn has said that Scorsese admitted to a lack of experience with directing films about women’s issues but was open to the project because he “wanted to participate in the consciousness of 1975.” 

DID YOU KNOW? Although they had a script to use as a foundation, actress Ellen Burstyn and director Martin Scorsese improvised, making a videotape of Burstyn portraying Alice 20 years in the future and using it to restructure scenes and experiment with dialogue. They sent the material to screenwriter Robert Getchell, who then rewrote the script.   

DID YOU KNOW? Star Ellen Burstyn got ideas for the depiction of the relationship between Alice and Tommy from conversations with her own son Jefferson, 13 years old at the time of production. According to Burstyn, the scene in which Tommy asks Alice about her sex life was based on a real conversation.  

DID YOU KNOW? ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE features an early, uncredited screen appearance by co-star Diane Ladd’s young daughter, Laura Dern, as a little girl eating an ice cream cone. 

DID YOU KNOW? ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE inspired a television spin-off, entitled ALICE, which aired on the CBS from 1976 through 1985 and starred Linda Lavin as Alice Hyatt and Polly Holliday as Flo, with Vic Tayback reprising his film role as Mel. 

DID YOU KNOW? ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE earned Ellen Burstyn a Best Actress Academy Award® for her leading performance in the title role – with additional nominations going to Diane Ladd for Best Supporting Actress and Robert Getchell for Best Original Screenplay. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-How does ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE fit into – or stand apart from – the rest of Martin Scorsese’s filmography? Are there distinctive indicators of his style or filmmaking perspective? 

-How would you characterize Alice as a parent? Do you agree with, understand or have empathy for her parenting choices? Do you agree with her choices with regard to her own life, knowing that she has the additional responsibility of raising a child? Why or why not? 

-How does the film balance humor and drama? How does that balance reflect the real world – and how does that onscreen balance help you relate to the characters? 

-How does the film reflect – or deny – the American Dream? 

-What is it about Ellen Burstyn’s performance that makes it so effective? What other performances in the film stand out to you as particularly powerful? 

-How does ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE reflect the sensibilities – and challenges – of a 1970s woman in America? What has changed since then – and what aspects of the film still resonate universally nearly half a century later? 


In this exclusive video from the AFI Archive, Diane Ladd honors Martin Scorsese at the AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony:

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